You don't have to be Robert Irvine to find an ideal place to dine.
That task should hardly be impossible but rather the norm when it comes to finding a restaurant that doesn't send you or your party running for the door.
Irvine, who hosts "Restaurant Impossible" and "Restaurant Express" for the Food Network knows all too well that there are more than a few establishments that use the term "fine dining" liberally.
Simply put, there's plenty of restaurants that leave a lot to be desired.
How do you spot a great restaurant? Aside from reaching out and trying to get in touch with the likes of Irvine or any other celebrity chef that spots subpar restaurants with a keen eye, you're pretty much on your own.
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Not to worry. You'll have this dilemma sorted out before you've even ordered drinks.
The trick for the consumer is spotting a place like this, one that may have an inexperienced chef or wait staff that seems more interested in watching television than taking an order. Not everyone has the innate ability, like Irvine, to recognize shortcomings within a few seconds of arriving at a restaurant.
A huge red flag upon arriving to any restaurant isn't so much sight, although that is important, but smell. If the stench of mildew, old food or anything else is pungent enough to grab your attention more so than the food they're serving, you'd be advised to head in the opposite direction.
Aesthetically speaking, the restaurant shouldn't be littered with ratting furniture, peeling carpet or benches and chairs that look like they've seen better days.
But the real mark of a restaurant you wouldn't mind visiting again begins and ends with customer service, from the host or hostess to your server and even what happens behind closed doors in the kitchen.
You'd have no problem rallying behind a cook that loves what he does and truly is passionate about his craft, but if a restaurant won't allow you to order dishes minus a few ingredients or customize based on likes or dislikes then you have to question just how much they value their customers.
Again, if you're a person who likes to change everything about an entree so that it is completely unrecognizable, then perhaps you should find a buffet and go to town. But if you're asking for a side of salad dressing or sauce on the side, that shouldn't be too much to tackle for any top notch chef.
Other than awful tasting food, no one aspect of a restaurant that determines whether you'll visit again or once is enough is the wait staff. Is your waiter friendly? Is he or she in tune with the menu and truly prepared to answer questions?
These are staples that define an employee that is simply filling out a shift or really cares about what they do on a nightly, weekly or monthly basis. And when it comes to waiters or waitresses, it's more than just attitude. How they handle delivering food (is it done timely?) or tending to you throughout the meal means just as much.
Nothing is quite as annoying as a waiter incredibly anxious to push you out the door. Restaurants are supposed to be social settings that are relaxed and comfortable, not taking a ubiquitous, turn style approach to dining.
You're a consumer, you love to eat and you know what you like. Those principles play a huge role when you're deciding where you'd like to eat.
But more importantly, you know what you don't like, and, hopefully, how to spot it ahead of time.
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